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Relationships In Lockdown

Relationships In Lockdown

The world is in a weird place and the solution can be tense for a lot of people. Especially families that have to be quarantined together. There can be a lot of issues that surface at a strained time with decreased mobility and division of responsibilities. Mental health can be jeopardized if not communicated about and tackled well. Domestic abuse cases have gone up drastically at such unprecedented times and there has risen some level of discord in different homes and families, the factors of which can be an amalgamation of factors. Maintaining healthy relationships and cultivating healthier mental peace is crucial at this time.
In a tete-a-tete with Dr. Uzma, let's focus on basic things to remember to maintain harmony in a home.

1. Mental harmony during a lockdown can be a battle, how would you propose a couple can keep up amicability being bolted up at home?
A. Nearly all mental health practitioners have come to the same conclusion for couples during this lockdown which is represented by 'agreed boundaries'.
Most of us are confined to small or medium spaced apartments. Few of us are lucky to have a balcony for a sanctuary while others have just a window to watch their patch of sky. Apart from mounting concerns regarding the wellness of our loved ones, we are restricted to news coming in from various media adding to our mental turmoil. An interesting point this lockdown has defined is how we are socially isolated from those conducive to our mental health but confined with those who are probably acting like energy vampires. A double whammy!

2. What role does personal space play when running a household?
Personal space is crucial for maintaining our sanity in a confined space. Lockdown can be a stressful time with the invasion of personal space in a home filled with people. Specific spaces designated for everyone in the family will help here. Children can use their rooms and also the living area as they need more movement when compared to adults. Parents can use their bedrooms or any one of the common areas. Families can assign time for their individual 'me time' and also a slot for 'family time' where they all do a fun activity together. When Mom is cooking, Dad takes over the parental duties. And if Dad is busy, Mom steps in to organise games for the children.
The dynamics will be different if the children are older. This can be a good time for initiating deep conversations with young adults, who are beginning to have their perspectives on life.

3. In India, it is still an uphill battle for a couple to divide house chores and share responsibilities, what is required to change this dynamic effectively and harmoniously?
Gender-based chores have been an uphill battle for a long time in India but the good news is that this lockdown is changing outlooks. Men are now more appreciative of how seamlessly women can multitask. Women, on the other hand, get to see the pressure a man handles when he is working from home. Families that function cohesively will surely find something to appreciate about each other, even in this difficult situation. Most people are focussing on the positives they are beginning to discover about their partners, their children and other family members during this lockdown.

4. What are some activities a couple can do together to save their relationship?
Some insightful guidelines have been laid down by Forbes, which could certainly help couples chart a schedule together-
a) Have a routine-
Many of us wake up wondering what to do next and setting a routine together can free up some mental bandwidth.
b) Start a homebound exercise regimen- Movement is vital for mental health and sweating it out together can be a terrific way to bond.
c) Get outside-
Enjoy the outdoors if you are lucky to have a garden or step into your balcony or just look out of your window. Practice some deep breathing and get some fresh air.
Green and blue spaces alleviate anxiety and depression.
d) Declutter your home-
Perfect opportunity for cleaning and
organising accumulated trivia. Articles not being used can be earmarked for giving away to charity- comforts both the mind and the soul.
e) Mediation-
Just pray, breathe deeply or practise intermittent fasting.
f) Maintain social connections-
Call up those who you have not reached out to in a long time, reconnect with those you lost touch with, forgive those who harmed you. All these acts may seem small but will add up to a better you.
g) Be of service from a distance-
You can think of various opportunities to spread kindness in these unkind times.
Continue paying salaries to your household staff even though they can't come to work. This situation has been the toughest on them. Feed the garbage collector or buy groceries for the elderly living alone.
h) Cut yourself and others some slack- These are unprecedented times so a united front and a sense of humour will ease it for all.
i) Practise gratitude-
Above all, a grateful mind will always find itself ready for any eventuality with a positive attitude.

6. What are your insights on domestic violence during the lockdown and how can that be curbed?
Confined spaces, frayed nerves, rumours and frightening news could strain anyone's cognitive capacity. The list seems to be alarming for those facing domestic violence. Couples operating in existing dysfunctional setups, or living with a narcissistic sociopathic spouse, or having a spouse with addiction or one who is suffering from withdrawal symptoms - can lead to an eruption of active or passive aggression. It is best if such a conflict is resolved, at the earliest, between the couple. They could also take recourse to involve family or even neighbours in dire circumstances. In the case of physical violence, it is imperative to inform the authorities.

7. How do you suppose can a family divide their responsibilities when Quarantined? How can they effectively share the load?
Perhaps it might be a little easier on the father who has only to plan for his next meal or his laundry or his physical needs. The mother most definitely will be the one who is organising a million tasks, in ninja mode. Children on the loose, no structured school routine, online classes, cooking meals, cleaning up and her mental, physical and social needs that go unchecked. Finding a network for dispersing the duties is one way to start. Delegate responsibilities to the children according to age and ability. Younger children love cleaning and washing dishes, while the older ones can help with other activities. Engaging them with play-acting their 'chores' can take off the element of drudgery and make it more fun

8. Who do you think will be better at handling the lockdown- Younger couples or Elderly couples?
Both and neither. Young, healthy couples may be able to cope better by having an understanding of the situation whereas elderly couples especially those with cognitive decline, Alzheimer's or age-related dementia may not be fully aware and may not be able to handle it as well. These times are also toughest for those with special needs.
Sometimes, elderly couples may adapt much more easily as they might be in a similar situation where they are used to confined spaces and social isolation for long periods.

9. If a relationship does not seem to survive the quarantine period, what are the steps to deal with such a situation?
a) Talking it out very rationally.
b) Sharing the problem with family and friends who could be trusted and whose advice is non-judgemental.
c) Seeking professional help.

10. If one partner is depressed or emotionally affected due to the current situation, can the other help?
By being emotionally and socially supportive, by being present at all times or by just sitting next to a troubled spouse and holding their hand can be extremely therapeutic. Hugging which releases oxytocins, giving a relaxing massage which can be physically and mentally soothing will help in connecting the intimacy between the couple. Watching funny or uplifting movies, dancing out the blues together, regular intake of magnesium and vitamin D3 and having zinc loaded foods can keep the depression at bay. It would be advisable to keep a health practitioner's number at home.

Dr. Uzma Raheem

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